The SEC is ever-changing. The conference has five new head coaches over the past three years, and where longevity is concerned, no SEC coach is among the top 10 tenured head coaches nationally.
Nick Saban is the longest tenured coach in the SEC and only ranks No. 11 nationally among Power-5 programs.
With Les Miles’ mid-season departure, Saban is the only SEC coach who has spent more than 10 seasons on the same sideline.
So, are these changes for the better or worse? Here are all SEC head coaches in order of their national ranking in tenure (based on hiring date) and their influence on the respective programs they now lead.
1. Nick Saban (No. 11 based on hiring date), Alabama, entering 11th season: It goes without saying the positive influence Saban has had on the Alabama program since signing on Jan. 3, 2007. Four national championships and six consecutive seasons of one conference loss or less, is testament to the discipline and professionalism he’s brought to the program during his decade of dominance.
2. Dan Mullen (No. 20), Mississippi State, entering 9th season: Is this the golden age of football for the Bulldogs? It’s difficult to tell when that program has only won the SEC once (1941) and only once captured the SEC West (1998). But seven consecutive bowl appearances, a school record, under Mullen since becoming the Bulldogs’ head coach on Dec. 11, 2008, points toward it.
3. Hugh Freeze (No. 33), Ole Miss, entering 6th season: The Rebels won all six of their SEC titles under legendary Johnny Vaught. It certainly looked like Freeze would be the next Rebels coach to do so, after taking over the program on Dec. 5, 2011. However, swirling allegations and the possibility of pending sanctions have taken the program a step back.
4. Kevin Sumlin (35 tie), Texas A&M, entering 6th season: Since taking the job on Dec. 10, 2011, Sumlin burst onto the SEC scene. With a dynamic quarterback in Johnny Manziel, the Aggies defeated Alabama, and it appeared they were headed for greatness. But Sumlin hasn’t been able to sustain that success. Nevertheless, the Aggies are on a school-record bowl streak of eight consecutive seasons, and Sumlin is responsible for the past five.
5. Mark Stoops (40), Kentucky, entering 5th season: At a basketball school, Stoops has brought attention to a football program that boasts just two SEC championships. That isn’t easy to do, and Stoops’ Wildcats have improved their standing in the SEC East with each season since he took the reins on Nov. 27, 2012.
6. Bret Bielema (45 tie), Arkansas, entering 5th season: Trying to bring respectability back to a proud program, Bielema is still searching for that winning formula. Since taking over on Dec. 4, 2012, Bielema has hovered around the .500 mark and the doubt about his ability to get the Hogs to elite status grows with each one.
6. Gus Malzahn (45 tie), Auburn, entering 5th season: It didn’t take long for Malzahn to bring the Tigers back to the top of the heap after becoming their head coach on Dec. 4, 2012 (same day as Bielema). After a national championship game appearance in his first season, Malzahn’s teams have fallen off the pace considerably.
8. Butch Jones (47), Tennessee, entering 5th season: There was nowhere for the Vols to go but up when they hired Jones on Dec. 7, 2012. And though he has improved the program, expectations are higher than that. Back-to-back 9-win seasons are nice, but Jones was brought in to win conference titles.
9. Derek Mason (67), Vanderbilt, entering 4th season: Coming into a precarious situation at Vanderbilt on Jan. 17, 2014, Mason took over on the heels of back-to-back 9-win seasons under James Franklin before he bolted for Penn State. Starting with just three wins in his first season, Mason’s Commodores have improved. Still, in three seasons, Mason is looking for his first winning year there after the bowl loss left them at 6-7 this past season.
10. Jim McElwain (72 tie), Florida, entering 3rd season: Bringing the Gators to back-to-back SEC Championship Games after taking the job on Dec. 4, 2014, McElwain must now take the next step and win a SEC title. That’s a tall task considering the giant in college football that resides in the opposite division.
11. Barry Odom (90), Missouri, entering 2nd season: Hired on Dec. 3, 2015, Odom did not have a successful first season. In fact, the 4-8 campaign was the worst for Missouri since a 3-8 year in 2000, Larry Smith’s final season. There’s seemingly nowhere to go but up from here.
12. Kirby Smart (96 tie), Georgia, entering 2nd season: Georgia won 8 games but should have won more under Smart, hired on Dec. 6, 2015. But the pieces are in place for a truly special 2017 and the No. 3 recruiting class in the nation bodes well for the future — his and the Dawgs.
13. Will Muschamp (96 tie), South Carolina, entering 2nd season: Stepping into a difficult situation upon his hiring on Dec. 6, 2015 (same day as Smart), Muschamp took advantage of a second chance to prove himself as a head coach. His mid-season adjustments landed the Gamecocks in a bowl game, something few thought was possible entering the season.
14. Ed Orgeron (112 tie), LSU, entering 1st full season: The jury is still out after half a season as interim. Orgeron was hired as the Tigers’ full-time head coach on Nov. 26, 2016. He had an excellent recruiting year and has enough talent to keep LSU around the double-digit win totals consistently.